Teleconference Meeting of the Board of Directors, April 12, 2019

Published: April 12, 2019

1. Attendance

1.1 Board members

Charles Harnick (Chair), John McCamus (outgoing Chair), Remy Boulbol (by teleconference) Nancy Cooper (by teleconference), Christa Freiler (by teleconference), Carol Hartman (by teleconference), Derry Millar (by teleconference), Peter Owsiany (by teleconference), Sean Robichaud (by teleconference), Michel Robillard (by teleconference), James Yakimovich (by teleconference), Ann‑Marie Yantz (by teleconference), David Field (CEO/Ex Officio)

The outgoing Chair reported that the Order‑in‑Council appointing Charles Harnick as Chair of Legal Aid Ontario for a term of two years was signed on April 11, 2019.

1.2 Staff

Janet Budgell, Mary‑Ann Cocchetto, Stephanie Mealing, Louis Dimitracopoulos, Kathleen Murphy, John Norquay, Ivan Yablonovsky

2. General discussion on provincial government budget

The Vice-President and CAO reported that the Deputy Attorney General has advised LAO that its transfer payment from the Province is being reduced from $456M to $323M for the current fiscal year.

The CAO reported that the 2018/19 revenue was $534M including provincial government transfer payments, financial eligibility funding, Law Foundation of Ontario (LFO) funding, and client contributions. Expenditures are anticipated to be $482M, leaving a surplus of $52M. Prior to the fiscal year‑end, the Provincial government advised LAO that it would reduce LAO’s transfer payment by $40M, leaving a $12M surplus. This reduction is in addition to the $4.2M permanent reduction which had been removed from LAO’s base funding earlier in the fiscal year.

After the transfer payment reduction, LAO’s total 2019/20 projected revenue is $445M which includes the federal contribution for the immigration and refugee program. The approved expenditure budget for 2019/20 is $508M. The outgoing Chair reported that staff are in the process of developing options for immediate expenditure reductions. These options will be presented to the Board for discussion and approval.

Projected revenues from the Law Foundation of Ontario (LFO) have increased over the last fiscal year and this fact, along with other in‑year budgetary changes designed to offset expected revenue reductions, has resulted in a projected shortfall that is less than would have otherwise been experienced.

The Board discussed exercising caution with respect to long‑term reliance on LFO revenues. Interest rates are variable and a one-quarter percent decrease in interest rates translates to a $12M reduction in LAO’s revenue from the LFO.

3. Refugee and immigration services

The Board will be asked to consider short‑term savings initiatives to meet immediate budget pressures as well as on‑going long‑term options. There will be additional financial pressures over the next two to three years and a long‑term strategy is needed for Refugee and Immigration Services.

The outgoing Chair presented the report entitled Refugee and Immigration Services Program: Interim Service Options.

LAO’s estimated allocation from the Federal government for refugee and immigration is between $13.5 and $16M. The calculation is based on the volume of claims during the last three quarters of the previous fiscal year and the first quarter of the current fiscal year. Ontario’s exact share cannot be calculated until the end of the first quarter.

The board discussed options for the delivery of refugee and immigration services using only the federally allocated funding.

DECISION: The Board approved the option to reduce services to fit within the known Federal envelope (up to $16M). One Board member opposed.

DECISION: The Board approved an announcement on Monday, April 15, 2019 or as soon thereafter as possible after the federal and provincial governments were informed. One Board member opposed.

DECISION: Meeting adjourned.